Navigating the transition to university life as an Indigenous student
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Wiigiwaamike is an Ojibwe animate transitive verb defined as s/he builds a wiigiwaam. A wiigiwaam is a semi-permanent dome structure used traditionally by Ojibwe and other Indigenous peoples across the shell of Turtle Island. This seasonal dwelling acts as a temporary home or a ceremonial space. There is a lot of time and effort put into the building of a wiigiwaam due to its structural necessities. However, upon reaching the end of its lifespan, a wiigiwaam would be quickly dismantled and burned. The space would be cleared for the creation of a new wiigiwaam, or the inhabitants could build elsewhere. This transitional lifestyle resonates with my academic career as I search for resources to nurture my relationships.

Coming to the University of Calgary as an Indigenous student through the Indigenous Student Access Program (ISAP) was a great way for me to create new friendships, professional relationships and develop academic skills. By engaging with the community at the Writing Symbols Lodge and the staff at the Student Success Centre (SSC), I have established a sense of a semi-permanent dwelling, in which I am able to gather resources and take back to my community or family. 

Reflecting on research as ceremony and my temporary office space in the SSC, I feel like I have experienced a transitional journey. At times, it feels like home, as I engage with language and Indigenous thought with my peers. Other moments resemble ceremony, as I smudged and set intentions in my scouting trips through web portals, searching for resources to share with Indigenous students. As my contract comes to an end, I anticipate embarking on a new search for opportunities, exploring another space to continue this ceremonial practice. 

The experience of leaving your home and traveling to new lands in hopes to learn, grow and better yourself can be an intimidating and stressful experience. Unfamiliarity with the land and available resources can lead one to dire situations that encourage desperate action and sometimes harmful behavior. If you are an Indigenous student and find yourself in need of mental health support, please look through the following links. They offer a variety of supports including cultural and wholistic wellness.